Transparency News 5/18/17

Thursday, May 18, 2017

State and Local Stories

Many thanks to the more than 160 people who came out for VCOG’s FOIA and records management workshop yesterday at the Library of Virginia. Glenn Smith from the Library and Maria Everett of the FOIA Council did their usual informative, humorous presentations. Plus, Chad, Corey and Riley, also from the Library, get extra props for taking time out of their days to check in attendees and to answer their questions. 

An unnamed Richmond business walked away with a nearly $500,000 payout from city taxpayers at the end of March in a maneuver that finance officials suspect was aimed at intentionally gaming state tax law for profit. Some tax experts say the allegation sounds farfetched, but city finance officials are not the first in the state to believe a company might be taking advantage of the tax code to cash in at the expense of taxpayers. The city isn’t naming the company because state code makes specific taxpayer information secret — anyone who releases such information can be charged with a misdemeanor. But officials said the business operates under a “personal or business services” business license, a category that includes law firms, accounting firms, engineering firms and other businesses that provide services as opposed to sell or manufacture goods.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

Meeting for the first time since a special grand jury found widespread dysfunction at the Rockbridge Area Department of Social Services, a board that oversees the agency was both defensive and contrite Wednesday. Several board members bristled during the public comment session of their monthly meeting, when Lexington resident Mark Reed suggested they should all resign. “I just don’t understand you at all,” member Bill Spence told Reed. “It’s like you’re on a vendetta.” Reed said his intent was not to threaten, but seek reform.
Roanoke Times

You never know what you might find tucked away in a box at the Library of Congress. Ask Katherine C. Bassard, an English professor who teaches African-American literature at Virginia Commonwealth University. Bassard is in the process of putting into digital form what may be the only surviving manuscript written by a slave before the Civil War. Bassard located the 1847 document, "A Scetch of My Own Life by Fields Cook," in a box labeled "African American miscellaneous" after following the footnote of a previous scholar. The 37-page manuscript wasn't catalogued or attributed to Cook.
Style Weekly

National Stories

Former D.C. Public Schools chancellor Kaya Henderson routinely helped well-connected parents — including two senior aides to Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) — bend or break the rules of the District’s notoriously competitive school lottery to enroll their childrenat coveted schools, according to a confidential report obtained by The Washington Post. The report, based on an investigation by the D.C. Inspector General’s Office, describes in remarkable detail how Henderson used her power as head of the school system to place the children of those with political clout at campuses they could not otherwise access through the random lottery, which every year leaves thousands of families on waiting lists for their desired schools.
Washington Post